Saturday, July 15, 2017
Our goal today was to visit places near Cork. We opted for a hop on-hop off tour with Paddywagon which took us first to Blarney Castle. The castle was built by Cormac McCarthy in 1446. Fortunately, the bus got us there early and we walked through the lovely gardens to the castle. We had been warned that the castle is pretty much in ruins and its only claim to fame is the kissing of the stone. We had already decided we were not going to do that, but we wanted to see others do it. What we didn't know is that the way to the stone is up 4 stories on a very narrow windy stone staircase. We were just following the signs when we realized that we were in the staircase with no stopping until the top. The way down was another way.
We persevered and we were able to move around to the "kissing" without a long wait. (We've heard it can be hours with some stuck in the staircase.) Caught a shot of a "kisser." This is NOT me.
Otherwise, there is not much to see here, but the gardens are worth a visit. I was intrigued by the size of these leaves on this plant. We did have an early lunch in the cafeteria associated with the Blarney Woolen Mills nearby.
Next stop was Cobh (pronounced Cove). The town has one of the world's largest natural harbors. It is famous for being the main port from which Irish immigrants left for the USA, Canada and Australia. Also, it was the last stop for The Titanic before its doomed Atlantic crossing 2 days later on April 14, 2017. There is a museum there for the famous vessel, but the tickets were sold out. Instead, we walked up to St. Colman's, an imposing Gothic Revival cathedral above the town with impressive views. Then we walked around the town which is quite pretty. Afterwards we visited "the Queenstown Story," a museum which chronicled the history of the community, in particular the part the town played in Irish immigration and the transportation of convicts. Between 1848 and 1850 almost 6 million people emigrated from Ireland, 2-1/2 million from Cobh. The famine years of 1844-48 triggered mass emigration, often on boats with horrible conditions. One note of interest - in the late 1800's there were 8 men to every woman in Australia. As a solution, girls from orphanages in Ireland were rounded up and sent to the continent, but they were not well received. They were viewed as "not well trained in domesticity and were insubordinate." Another clever exhibit was of an ocean liner. With the use of mirrors, they made a small 10 ft exhibit look like the whole deck of a ship (see me reflected in the mirror in the second shot).
Then we headed back to Cork. Tonight we went to Oliver Plunkett's, a local pub where we had great fish and chips and listened to an Irish duo with a great repertoire. Another fun evening.